by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The things that make people want to put czars in charge of complicated and intractable problems are also the things that make it a terrible idea to put czars in charge of complicated and intractable problems.
If designing an apartment building is complex, then how much more complex is designing, say, a national system of regulating and subsidizing health-insurance companies, medical providers, employers, state governments, and — oh! — just about every one of the 327.2 million residents of this country from sea to shining sea, in a way that optimizes at least a few hundred major criteria that are in many cases either rivalrous or incompatible? How much more complicated than that is reorganizing more or less the entirety of human economic activity in simultaneous pursuit of environmental and social-justice goals involving competing factors so complex that the relationships among them are literally incomprehensible?
The same bureaucracies and politician-dominated processes we expect to ensure substantial justice for the entirety of the human race while optimizing the sum of human material life in accord with certain slippery and vaguely defined environmental goals cannot figure out how to raise an apartment building in San Francisco — which in reality entails not figuring out how to develop the needed housing but how to let other people who want to use their own money and energy to develop that housing do so — or how to run a high school in Milwaukee, or how to ensure that all of the people on Death Row actually belong there. The federal government cannot even say with any confidence how many programs it currently administers. Don’t ask its auditors where the money went.